Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reflection #5

Rachel Jonker
August 5-6 & 9, 2010
August 12, 2010
Journal #5
10.5 hours teaching, 15 hours preparing
Yum Kwang Church

Part 1: Summary of your recent time in the classroom (one-two paragraphs)

As we near the end of the YumKwang English Camp, my classes have begun to wrap things up. Thursday, August 5 was the final day for a Fruit of the Spirit verse. After that, I decided to use six of Jesus’ “I am” statements for the final daily Bible verses. These have provided the basis for each day’s Bible lesson in an engaging way as we have discussed what it means for Jesus to say that he is “bread” and “light.”

With the Brown Camels (my upper elementary school class) we have been working toward the students writing their own book report about a children’s book which I gave them to read outside of class. Every day I incorporate an activity which prepares them to complete another section of the report, such as character and setting description. The closest equivalent to this in my Blue Elephants class is the TeenInk essays which the students selected (on their own) and wrote two questions about and then summarized and exchanged with another student so they could read the essay that that person had selected and answer the questions. In the mother’s class which I co-teach with Molly and Rose during the kindergarten class, we have mainly focused on reading and discussing the Bible story which the kindergarteners learn each day so as to equip the mothers to be able to discuss the story with their children.

Part 2: Reflection on TESOL Themes
1. Discuss one approach you used or observed which you felt worked well and received positive response from both students and teacher. Support your observations with references from your TESOL texts.

On Monday, August 9 the daily verse was John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” In order to create a memorable experience which would help both of my classes think about what this statement means, I decided to talk about light and darkness.

In my Brown Camels class I used scarves to blindfold each of the students at the beginning of class, while in my Blue Elephants class I simply turned off the classroom lights. Then, when the students were in the dark, I asked them to explain what it was like. After they had done so, I asked the key question: Which is stronger, light or darkness? At first there were diverse opinions, but after I asked them to consider which one overpowers the other when both are in the same room, they all understood that light will always beat darkness.

I also distributed several Bible verses about light and darkness. The Brown Camels each had one verse to explain while the Blue Elephants were given a complete sheet with all of the verses, but we only looked at a few of them. I asked the students when most robberies take place, and why this is the case. From this point we talked about how since Jesus is the light of the world he will still be able to see anything which is done in the darkness and a little about what it means to be children of light.

I think that this approach was effective because it gave the students a tangible experience which helped them understand an important concept. In terms of language learning, this gave them clarity which made the discussion more profitable. The students enjoyed the activity because it was unusual—the say the least— to have the teacher blindfold them and turn off all the lights. Harmer comments on this very thing when he discusses the importance of variety in classroom activities and topics. He notes that even the best activity “will be less motivating the sixth time we ask the students to take part in it than it was when they first came across it. Much of the value of an activity, in other words, resides in its freshness” (29). I think that I was especially attune to this because I have adopted a fairly consistent class structure which needed to be “broken-up.”

2. Discuss one approach you used or observed which you felt did not work well and received negative response from either students or teacher. Support your observations with references from your TESOL texts.

I am very intentional about treating my middle/high school students according to the maturity which I expect them to display in the classroom. I do this in the hope that if I treat them as responsible, capable students, they will perform accordingly. While this generally works, recently I have begun to question its effectiveness. I have struggled throughout my time teaching here to get my students to complete their blog homework. While I am still not completely sure why it has been so difficult to get them to do it, I suspect that it may be because the students are not accustomed to accessing the internet every day, are occupied with other homework, academies and activities and the blog homework was often not incorporated into the classroom time, so thus they were not reminded of it.

However, during these few days I discovered that the single biggest factor may simply be a lack of consequences. After discussing it with my fellow Taylor students, I decided that it was not too late to change my standards by requiring the students to write sentences every time that they did not complete their blog homework. I used this approach in my Brown Camels class: on Thursday, August 5 the three students who had not completed their blog homework had to write “I will do my blog homework before I come to class” five times and hand it in to me before they left class. On Friday the sentences increased to ten and on Monday there were 15. The combination of public humiliation and inconvenience that this created for the students proved to be more effective than I anticipated: since Monday, all of the students have been completing their blog homework. The whole experience makes me wonder why I didn’t think of this sooner!
Since I haven’t instituted the sentence punishment in my Blue Elephants class, student completion of blog homework has—understandably—stayed about the same. I chose not to make the students write sentences because it felt too “elementary” and because I had not instituted it from the beginning of class. I wanted them to feel that they were respected in the hope that they would return that respect. I have also recognized that this decision was motivated by my first language learning experience, in which the teacher used no consequences or tests at all, but rather simply presented us with “Desafios” for each subject area which we completed when we felt ready and through which we would earn the “honor” of having our names written on a posterboard.

But such is not adequate for these students. I also struggled against a lack of consequences to motivate the Blue Elephants to complete their “My Motivation” essays and select, ask and answer questions about, and summarize an essay from the TeenInk website. Harmer addresses my dilemma directly in his “What if students don’t do homework?” section of the “What If?” chapter (179-180). While none of his suggestions provide insight into how to create the intrinsic motivation which I would love to see my students develop so that homework completion was not an issue to begin with, they may have been helpful given the lack of such. I can see how a homework diary, variety, greater teacher involvement in reminders, reciprocation, and post-homework activities may have been helpful in motivating my students to complete their homework without belittling them. I can only lament that I did not institute such strategies earlier in the class.

3. Discuss a cultural dynamic that you saw playing out in the classroom. How did you respond to this dynamic? What resources could you consult to gain deeper insight into this?

On Monday, August 9 I decided to use a unit from Small Group Discussion Topics for Korean Students, a book which the YumKwang Church owns, for discussion in my Blue Elephants class. This book by Jack Martire presents a political, economic, environmental, or social issue facing Korea in the early 21st century in a three part essay complete with explanations of unfamiliar phrases and 8-10 discussion questions. The first topic that I chose was “Suicides.” Looking back on it I wonder whether it was appropriate for a middle school summer camp, but at the time I thought that the topic was sufficiently relevant and would be engaging to the students.

Our discussion was profitable; the essay gave the students a reason to communicate their opinions. However, the questions were not all relevant. This became humorously apparent when we came to the third: “What is your reaction to the suicide rate, as explained in Reading 3—a clash between traditional Confucist thinking and modern Korean society?” After a spell of awkward silence, it came out that the students did not know who Confucius was. I directed one of them to look up his Korean name in his dictionary, in hopes that this would “turn on the light bulb” which would enable them to answer the question. But even after they knew who he was, they were unable to answer the question. The students told me that while they had heard of him, they didn’t know anything about what he taught. Thus, I adapted the question and we went on to talk about how Korean media has changed. From that point on I realized that it worked better when I fed directly off of our discussion to create new questions rather than systematically addressing each written question in turn.

This situation shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did. Throughout the course I have come to realize that much of what is marketed as “traditional culture” is not known as such by my Korean students themselves. Most of this is due to modernization and the students Christian backgrounds; much of what once defined a typical Korean experience is no longer present in their lives.

However, the fact that the students did not know anything about what Confucius taught does not mean that his teachings have ceased to have an effect on Korean culture. For example, it is still customary to bow to others—particularly elders—when greeting them. In addition, Korean society still awards a relatively high respect to the elderly. I have never before been in an environment in which the eldest is consistently served food first, and in which people routinely give up their subway seats for the elderly. However, I think that I am sensitive to this issue for that very reason: I have never before lived in this environment. For my students, in contrast, this is the only culture which they have known. As such, they are less likely to recognize such as overt evidence of Confucist influence. What I recognize as a cultural phenomenon appears to be simply normal to them. This phenomenon of which aspects of culture one can self-identify as such is fascinating to me. I would like to research it further via similar discussions with my students, the Korean language assistants, others who have lived in Korea as well as another culture, and via published material about evolution in traditional Korean culture.

No comments:

Post a Comment